Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top at the Box Office This Week

1. "Get Smart." The cast is good and the source material is funny, but the director is like a giant black hole of funny out of which no humor escapes. Quick rundown of Peter Segal's previous films: "My Fellow Americans," "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," "Anger Management," "50 First Dates" and "The Longest Yard." We're not exactly dealing with a master satirist here. Meanwhile, writers are the same folks who brought us "Failure to Launch" (you know, that movie that sucked) so I think the pedigree of this film is a tad mixed. Kind of like an Irish Wolfhound that has managed to breed with a particularly unfunny brick.

2. "The Incredible Hulk." If you wanted John Woo to direct your movie, why not just hire John Woo? No need to grab his retarded French cousin.

3. "Kung Fu Panda." I object to this movie on principle, but in practice it looks kind of funny. We have a conundrum.

4. "The Love Guru." If you're allergic to laughter, then this is the film for you.

5. "The Happening." How is it that a man who has made only one good movie (and at least three intensely shitty movies) can continue to get funding and support for his films? Do you know what could have been done with the budget that was used to make this piece of shit? Aside from the usual humanitarian aid efforts, it could have funded a scholarship for upcoming film makers. $50,000 a piece for 1,140 different directors to fund and market their films. How many good 90 minute movies do you think could have been made for what it cost to make this poorly-executed slumberfest?

6. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of One Decent Action Sequence and a Senseless, Annoying Plot."

7. "You Don't Mess With the Zohan." If you do, he might occupy your homeland with brutal apartheid.

8. "Sex and the City." I don't think it's normal for my balls to hurt slightly every time I hear about a movie. I should really have that checked out.

9. "Iron Man." Has anyone else ever wondered what would happen to Tony Stark if he sneezed inside that suit?

10. "The Strangers." I still haven't gotten to this yet. Looks bitchen'.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Horror Re-Hash

I'm all for taking an established series back for a do-over. It's worked before and can sometimes yield interesting results ("Batman Begins"). It's at least better than just doing the same thing with the same people for so long it becomes embarrassing to watch ("Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Fuck This Shit").

The one genre this doesn't really work is horror (in practice, at least). Similar to the way Hammer remade all of the Universal monster films for a decade or so, jazzing them up for the modern market, studios have been nabbing up the rights to established films and banking on the name recognition to give their box office an edge. The only the difference being that the Hammer films didn't suck so much.

While there have been directors making new and original horror films recently, all of the recent horror movie remakes have been shit. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Amityville Horror," "Halloween," "The Hills Have Eyes," "Prom Night" and so on for a depressingly long amount of time. It's creative bankruptcy at its mind-numbing pinnacle. Even when the original film was no great shakes, the remake somehow manages to be worse. It's as if they're competing in a kind of shitty movie track-and-field competition and the remakes just have to go that extra mile for the gold.

Horror, as a film genre, is highly subject to trends (J-horror, "Scream"-like self-referential meta-slashers, "Saw"-inspired torture porn) and all trends eventually ebb. Unfortunately, it seems we've got to suffer for a few more years of this garbage. The remakes are still earning money so the studios think they have a winning formula, rather than just a depleted market with few other options and an undiscriminating fanbase.

Here's a few of the slated remakes of classic (or at least memorable) horror films. I found most of them through the scientific method of typing titles into the Internet Movie Database and seeing what came up. Good news: No "The Exorcist" or "Re-Animator" remakes on the books (though there is talks of another sequel to the latter, which is a tad depressing). The bad news: every movie on this list.

"Hellraiser." Yep. Countless shitty sequels notwithstanding, the series is going back to its roots. Fine, whatever. Slated for January 9, 2009 but there is still no director listed so we may be spared.

"My Bloody Valentine 3-D." The original was goofy slasher fun, but no one does that well anymore, so prepare to be depressed. The 3-D in the title doesn't help matters and the director's biggest film to date was "Dracula 2000." Remember that? Of course you don't. You also don't remember the two direct-to-video sequels he also helmed. Or the sequel to "White Noise" that not even Michael Keaton deemed worthy of being involved with. Yikes. Set for January 23, 2009.

"Friday the 13th." Now we get to the big time. Took some legal finagling before the studios that owned the rights to the original films got this worked out, but now it seems to be happening. I don't know, might be cool...wait a moment, who's directing it? Who the fuck is Marcus Nispel? Billy Joel music videos? Amy Grant? Cher? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Set for February 13, 2009 (whoa, on Friday the 13th. Probably the only thought that went into this shitpile).

"Last House on the Left." This one was too obvious. The director is Greek and has only done one film before, some shit about wayward teens that no one on this side of the world ever saw. The original was shitty and got by for being revolutionary. It's an historical piece, and the cards aren't stacking up for the remake to be worth the film it's being shot on. Slated March 6, 2009.

"The Evil Dead." I ain't making this shit up. No details other than a 2009 release date and that Sam Raimi is involved, though not as a director. Might even be an adaptation the musical they made of the original films, but I doubt we'll get off that easy.

"The Crazies." Set for 2010, this is a remake of one of George Romero's non-zombie films from the 1970s. The original mostly dealt with how government and military incompetence causes a massive viral outbreak and then how their continued inability to function without bureaucratic ineptitude and departmental infighting exacerbates the problem. Think they'll keep that anti-authoritarian element of the plot in? Yeah, just like they kept the dark humor and social commentary in the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. The director is also working on a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" remake for 2009, in Hollywood's continued collective attempt to piss all over my childhood. Also word of an "The Invisible Man" remake for 2010. You fuckers.

Couple of others I found but couldn't dig up any details for: "Susperia" and "Rosemary's Baby." Both slated for 2010, though I think the former might be more wishful thinking than anything else. The original was a crazy piece of work and any mainstream remake would streamline it so much you wouldn't even need to bother giving it the same name (not saying the won't do it). "Rosemary" would be watchable if they got a classy old-school director and a cast of actual actors. I'm cynical enough to think that this won't be the case and we'll be lucky if Keanu Reeves isn't in it.


I see as many of the big blockbusters as I can during the summer. Not that I enjoy most of them, but it beats being outside during the hottest, most pollen-filled months of the year. Same as anyone, really. But what's the fun in writing about the movies everyone is seeing? Why not take a look at some of the things that we can watch in the other seasons still scheduled to occur this year as we take our slow, inexorable march to the grave? Here are some of the post-August highlights:

September 26:

"Choke": Yep, it's a Chuck Palahniuk adaptation, the first since "Fight Club." Stars Sam Rockwell, so it has the built in indy-cred, but it's doubtful this will reach the same level of cultural influence as "Fight Club" did. Good. I'm fucking sick of that movie and anyone who likes it.

Fuck you.

"Blindness": Another adaptation, this one from the only essential Jose Saramago novel. Everything was lined up for this to be a big ol' bucket of awesome, but it got yawned out of its Cannes premier. Hell with it.

October 17:

"Quarantine": Group of people locked in an apartment building by a CDC quarantine and their experience is recorded by a news crew trapped with them. Rushed out remake of a Spanish horror hit looking to cash in on "Cloverfield"'s success. I've never liked viral internet marketing, going all the way back to "Blair Witch," and this seems like it's on a fast train to Blandsville. But if you can make a good horror film, I fault you nothing. Just try to make the movie more interesting than the advertising campaign.

October 24:

"Changeling": Clint Eastwood's play at "Chinatown"-like LA conspiracy. Getting some early buzz, but it stars Angelia Jolie and it is impossible for anyone to relate to Angelia Jolie on a human level, which is a bit of a detriment considering that's basically the job of an actor. Might be good, but I generally don't go for such obvious Oscar-bait, which is what all of Eastwood's recent films have boiled down to.

"Passengers": Airplane crash leads to conspiracy in the Pacific Northwest. Stars the ever do-able Anne Hathaway and apparently plays up the mist-and-fir-trees creepiness of the location, but it's helmed by a television director (sure sign of flatness) and is staying at PG-13, which is like coding something as being mediocre, over-test-marketed fluff.

November 7:

"Quantum of Solace": "Casino Royale" was the sort of movie that made you glad you watched movies. Along with "Batman Begins" it showed that Hollywood can still produce pure entertainment that didn't make you feel guilty for enjoying it so much. Makes up for a lot of shitty 3D animated films about wise-cracking animals ("Madagascar 2" opens up the same day as this, by the way). With the "Batman" sequel, "The Dark Knight," looking to be so entertaining it could start its own religion, we might just luck out with two ball-flatteningly awesome sequels in one year. Unfortunately, with injuries and deaths to those involved in both sequels, it seems the two movies might be cursed. By the third films in each series, expect Christian Bale to end up choking to death on something humiliating and Daniel Craig to have his head sliced off by a helicopter propeller, sending it flying over the House of Parliament and landing with a "plonk" in the Thames.

November 21:

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." I only mention this because it means we're that much closer to this series being finished. I'm so sick of this stupid uber-jock prick who has never had to work a second for any of the many gifts he's been given.

Harry Potter is an asshole.

November 26:

"The Road": Movie studios have a really ham-fisted way of aiming for success. An adaptation of an author's work does well and suddenly anything available by him gets optioned. The book "The Road," has a scene where a baby gets roasted on a spit and eaten as food. Not exactly Thanksgiving material, but I'm not complaining so long as they make a good movie out of it. Music video director at the helm, which could go either way (the two ways being "shitty" or "not that shitty").

December 26:

"The Spirit": If the preview for this film does not get you pumped, then you do not have testicles. Frank Miller flies solo as director and is bringing the "Sin City" style to Will Eisner's classic noir comic strip hero. Miller's prose (he wrote the screenplay as well) is full of machismo and violence. This ends up being neo-fascist in any context other than the art-noir style he essentially created for himself (the uber-stupid "300" comes to mind). So this seems to be the ideal platform for him. If this ends up sucking, then I will have lost all hope in a just and merciful god.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Opening Soon and Top Ten

Opening Friday:

"The Incredible Hulk." Let me put this sentiment in all-caps, just to make myself as clear and irritating as possible: THE ANG LEE FILM WAS NOT A BAD MOVIE. It was an unsuccessful movie, it certainly wasn't a great movie, it could have used a little trimming (cut out Lee's sub-Freudian bullshit and this would damn well be a classic), but overall it was a solid piece of work. People complained that there wasn't enough action (too much subtext going on, which might not have been the best idea in when telling the story of a character best known for being green and smashing things, at least from a marketing standpoint). It wasn't the kind of movie you build a franchise out of and franchises are all Marvel is interested in, so now we're being treated to this odious filth. It's going to suck, we all know its going to suck, and because it's still going to do 10 times the business of the first film we'll be treated to at least two, maybe three sequels in the same style. The first one was a good film made at the wrong time with bad marketing. This film will be a bad film made at the right time with, well, bad marketing (the previews all make it look like shit).

"The Happening." M. Night Shyamalan should not be allowed to write his own scripts. That's really where he seems to fail as a director. "The Sixth Sense" was a solid movie, but it was one of those one-time brilliant ideas that creative people sometimes get (doesn't take a genius to come up with a clever idea and work backwards to build the plot). His need to top it has led to a string of poorly-plotted, increasingly lunatic movies that indulge his cinematic messiah-complex. "Unbreakable" was a non-entity, "Signs" was brilliant style wrapped around a trite plot, "The Village" was... "The Village" and "Lady in the Water" explored possibilities in the world of suck of which others had not yet dared dream. So expectations for "The Happening" are somewhat, shall we say, "tempered in the fact that most of his films are shit." He has the talent to make great movies, but he also has the ego to think he can tell interesting stories. Even Hitchcock knew his limits and had others write his stories, dude, and he also made his appearances short and subtle in his movies. Let it go.

Top Ten at the Box Office:

1. "Kung-Fu Panda." Considering that the film is about a wise-cracking panda that knows kung-fu, do you really think that saturation marketing is really necessary? Just a quick note to the press, "this movie is about a wise-cracking panda that knows kung-fu" would have been sufficient to get the point across. If the marketing for your movie makes "Bee Movie" look dignified, then you know you've overdone it.

2. "You Don't Mess with the Zohan." This movie might have been good if it had stared Sacha Baron Cohen or Stephen Chow, or anyone with real comedic talent. Even a better director would have added a little more polish to this turd. Instead we get another in a long string of goofy, pointless Adam Sandler comedies that involve a silly voice and a plot pulled from a hat. Complacent, meaningless time-fillers with all the creativity of nailing two pieces of wood together.

3. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Whatever." If this had been made ten years ago and with a script that attempted to make some sense, it might have been a solid film. Instead it looks just like the kind of movie that has gone through the bowels of pre-production hell and come out through the studio-system anus into the toilet bowels that are our multiplex theaters. It has a too many scripts fighting for dominance and too many action sequences that don't have any real meaning or influence. Fun enough, but overall an unmemorable addition to a series that is mostly unmemorable.

4. "Sex and the City." This is sci-fi geekery for women. Its absurd, poorly plotted and doesn't make any sense unless you have some obscure, esoteric knowledge. It's also sexist and focused solely on the lives of elite white people. Just like any number of countless science fiction franchises. Guys, if you ever hear a woman complain about "Star Trek," just point to this.

5. "The Strangers." The preview for this film is the best horror movie released this year. I'll probably need to do some personal confirmation on whether or not this is actually worthwhile, as film critics as a group seem to really suck at reviewing horror movies.

6. "Iron Man." Again with this.

7. "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." If you're going to adapt the works of a Christian apologist, at least pick something by someone interesting. May I recommend G.K. Chesterton?

8. "What Happens in Vegas..." Ashton Kutcher is going around touting the merits of the current fad celebrity religion of the week, Kabbalism, thus cementing his dipshit status. Madonna and Britany Spears have also gone along with this one at some point or other, so I guess its a religion that caters to the shallow and vapid. Much like this film.

9. "Baby Mama." Idiotic, heartless, makes-me-weep-for-the-future-of-my-generation romantic comedy trifecta in play.

10. "Made of Honor." Trifecta complete.